The first Queen’s Cup in 1939 ended at the Spring Lake Yacht Club. The Grand River Sailing Club was able to bring the finish line to Grand Haven’s harbor in 1984.
The finish line for the past 20-plus years has alternated every other year with Muskegon and Grand Haven — with one exception: The 50th Queen’s Cup in 1988 started in Grand Haven and sailed to Milwaukee. Grand Haven hosted the race’s finish last year and was on schedule to host it again in 2012.
Queen’s Cup Committee Chairman Dave Wehnes said that crowded conditions at Grand Haven made it difficult to accommodate the 200-plus boats that typically compete in the race.
“Grand Haven has become too popular,” Wehnes said. “It’s become a very popular destination for power boaters. Many years ago, when we would arrive, that whole seawall would be available and we’d tie off. It wasn’t perfect, because there was a lot of wave action and it could be pretty uncomfortable, but at least we had a place to tie up. Now we show up and that whole wall’s taken with power boats and there’s no where for boats to go. The boaters tell me they would prefer not to go to Grand Haven.”
That opened the door for South Haven to enter the picture for 2012.
“At the awards ceremony last year in Grand Haven, the chair of the Queen’s Cup had announced that the 2011 Queen’s Cup would rotate back to Muskegon, but no plans had been made for 2012,” said Alan Silverman, a member of the board of governors at the South Haven Yacht Club. “A South Haven resident was in attendance and a light came on and he asked, ‘Why not South Haven?’
"So, over a period of months, we continued our conversation with the South Shore Yacht Club, joined with extraordinary support from the South Haven Yacht Club and the city of South Haven," Silverman continued. "Representatives of South Shore Yacht Club made the trip to South Haven to check out the harbor and were as excited about it as we have always been.”
Silverman said a highlight of the 2012 race will be the inclusion of the South Haven-based Good Friends Will, a tall ship replica that will be the finish line boat for the race.
The news that the Queen’s Cup would not return to Grand Haven next year was disheartening to members of the Grand River Sailing Club, including the club's commodore, George “Skip” Ver Duin.
“We find it disappointing,” Ver Duin said. “We don’t probably have the entire story. We have what they presented to us. From our board’s perspective, we decided not to burn any bridges. We’ll let their experimentation take its course and we’ll give them a couple years, see if there’s any interest in a couple years.”
That being said, Ver Duin said he understands that, at times, docking along the breakwall in Grand Haven can be quite uncomfortable when winds out of the west carry a surge of seas up the channel.
“If your boat’s not going to be comfortable where it’s moored, then what are you going to do?” he said.
Wehnes said that while future finishing sites for the Queen’s Cup have yet to be determined, he would not be surprised to see the race end back in Grand Haven in the coming years.
“I certainly would not be opposed to a 'round-robin' finish with three yacht clubs instead of two,” he said. “I think Grand Haven is still in the mix, but we need to figure out how to accommodate the fleet. The big challenge there has been finding places for our boats. It’s been a real hassle.”
The 2012 race is scheduled to begin in Milwaukee on the night of June 29 and finish in South Haven on June 30.
“The Queen’s Cup is a terrific way for us to showcase South Haven, a premier Lake Michigan beach town and boater’s paradise,” South Haven Mayor Bob Burr said in Thursday’s announcement from the South Shore Yacht Club.
For more information on the Queen’s Cup, visit www.ssyc.org.